Thursday, 13 November 2014

West Berkshire Mencap and Woolton Hill Primary School

Two weeks apart, but the photos are pretty similar, lots of books and lots of cakes!

Last week, one of the books I bought was a pre-loved (VERY pre-loved) lift-the-flap book called Elmer Plays Hide and Seek. The McBaby is going through something of an elephant obsession at the moment (as referenced in my last post - still rolling around laughing about that trip to the charity shop), and asked me if I'd buy him the book. It was 10p.

Since then, he has taken it to bed with him, taken it in the bath, in the car and at the dinner table. He has memorised it and though he can't read, flips the page at the right time and gets all of the words right. At the end, he improvises; instead of "No Elmer, it's me, Monkey", he says: "No Elmer, it's me, McBaby". It has quite literally brought a tear to my eye. I even went to Waterstone's to see if I could get him a newer version with all of the flaps remaining. It's OUT OF PRINT!

That means that this book will stay with him forever. It's the best 10p I've ever spent. Thanks Mencap!

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Will Aid

November is Will Aid month, where you can get your Will drawn up by a local solicitor in return for a voluntary donation to charity - I did this a few years ago. Probably time to take advantage of this offer and update it though!

During Will Aid month participating solicitors won't charge you for writing a basic Will. Instead, they will invite you to make a donation to Will Aid's nine charities. The suggested voluntary donations are £95 for a single Will, or £150 for a pair of 'mirror' Wills.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Swish, swish, swish!

If there's one thing that makes my heart sing out more loudly than a jumble sale, it's a clothes swapping event! All of the joy of getting something new to wear, without having to queue for hours listening to people drone on about X Factor, and being elbowed in the ribs!

After seeing this poster about a clothes swap event in my town in aid of the British Heart Foundation, my mind started ticking through the clothes I have. If you see me in real life, you'll know that I don't own many outfits!

I finally chose a colourful raincoat that I bought but never wore and a French Connection skirt that is a size 10 and was last worn by me at university. I know my mum spent a fortune on it, so I never had the heart to get rid of it. Nor the motivation to lose weight, it seems.

I took the McBaby, who enjoyed hiding in the clothes racks and trying to steal cake from pretty ladies, while I set to work having paid £1 per swap ticket. Eventually, I found two pretty dresses, both quite similar while the McBaby popped balloons everywhere he went.

I (s)wish there were more of these events, but here's a handy website

Sunday, 28 September 2014

ARK Cancer charity

Destination Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle in real life) this afternoon to watch the Classic Car Rally in aid of ARK Cancer Charity! Lots of beautiful classic cars and one not-so-classic car (ours) travelled from the cancer centre in Basingstoke through Hampshire up to Highclere to raise money for the Ark Centre, which provides support to cancer sufferers and their families at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital.

Even the lovely hosts Lord and Lady Carnarvon pitched up in their Rolls Royce Phantom III!

Cats Protection, Fairclose Day Centre and West Berkshire Mencap

It's been a while thanks to work, work, work, but this weekend, I managed to fit in three overdue jumble sales in two days. Gosh how I've missed being elbowed in the ribs, people stamping on your feet to get in front of you and most importantly, the joy of snagging a bargain!

First up was the Fairclose Day Centre autumn fair to raise money for the older people's day centre and lunches. I didn't buy any of the lovely cakes, preserves or bric-a-brac because on my way in, I saw someone I hadn't seen for ages - a 92-year-old chap who is a delight to talk to and loves to spend time with the McBaby. A while ago at a business networking event I went to, I mentioned that I was passionate about supporting a couple of older people's charities and that I felt that old people got a raw deal in this country. I said I wanted to create a movement where people are nicer to old people; for example, instead of tutting at them when they're chatting to the cashier at the post office (yes, this really happens), perhaps realise that this is their only human interaction of the day and giving them a bit of space.

The person I mentioned this to told me that my idea of being nice to old people was "the most patronising thing I've ever heard". However, speaking to this lovely old man at coffee mornings is a delight and a remarkable link with the past. He told me that his older brother did this week and unbelievably that during the war, his brother and his commanding officer were the first from the Allied Forces to stumble upon Belsen. His description of his brother's first impressions of what he found and the subsequent days were extremely touching. We've learned about concentration camps from our history books but imagine stumbling upon that - the smell, the sight of 4,000 decomposing bodies.

John himself was a prisoner of war in Poland and worked digging coal in the mines. I said I was sorry that his brother had died. He said it was a the circle of life. "I also had a great grandson that week. We all die and make space for new people. I'll die myself soon - it's just the way of the world. I'll be reunited with my wife," he continued. "Mind you, knowing my luck, she'll have taken up with a new boyfriend by the time I get there....."

More cheerfully, I then went to the Cats Protection jumble and bought the hamper, the coat and the dress. Yay!

Then Sunday, a much-needed clear out and a boot sale in the gorgeous sunshine at West Berkshire Mencap. As well as selling lots of things, I also bumped into a couple of friends and made enough money to take MrM out for lunch!

Monday, 15 September 2014


Just received this press release about Stoptober and the timing could not be more poignant. MrM is at his uncle’s funeral today – his uncle died last week at the ridiculously early age of 61 from lung cancer. I don’t smoke but to support this brilliant campaign, I’m going to stop drinking for the month of October. That’s drinking booze obviously, not liquids in general.

If you do smoke, but wish you didn't, then sign up here!

Monday, 1 September 2014


Everybody’s talking about the ice bucket challenge, and it’s created a bit of a stir in the McHousehold, which is fortunate as I’ve completely neglected this blog of late!
That’s not to say that I haven’t been donating, but my latest charitable contributions of late have consisted of bags and bags and bags of clothes, books and an unbelievable amount of bedding which has all been donated to a variety of charity shops and even those scary bins that you find in supermarket car parks.

But I digress.

Back to the ice bucket challenge for ALS, (Or MND or even Macmillan as they cheekily seem to have piggy backed onto the cause). The reason for the hooha in the McHousehold is that MrM was nominated over the weekend and was paralyzed with indecision about what to do.

Anyone who has done it and donated is to be congratulated for helping raise awareness and funds for the cause. Apparently, more than 1.2 million #IceBucketChallenge videos have appeared online (and I think I’ve watched most of them!) But personally, I just don’t fancy it. I think it’s run its course and that watching yet another person tip water over their heads is starting to get a teensy bit old.
I also have a problem with the sheer wastefulness of tipping water over your head when there are people in the world with none. I’m not just talking about Africa, but also California.

MrM and I spent hours debating this over the weekend and he decided that he would just donate. Having said that, check this video for its combination of individuality and yet more wasted resources!

Monday, 14 July 2014


Ah, my evening at Fareshare.

I spent a happy couple of hours volunteering at Tesco a few weeks ago asking shoppers to buy an extra item in their shopping and to donate it to Fareshare. Each shopper, that is, the ones who didn't pretend to be on their phones or pretend not to see me, received a list of dry goods such as teabags, pasta and rice.

Some people surprise you with their generosity and it's never the people who you think it will be. Some people lecture you about how people shouldn't need to be fed or how it's these "bloody people on benefits". But you in turn may be surprised at how easy it is - just a lost job, an accident or an illness - and a lot of us are just one rent cheque away from being homeless or hungry.

A big thank you to everyone who contributed. Including a very surprised MrM who didn't know I was there but bought a carrier bag of long life milk and some tins.


FareShare is supporting more than 1,290 charities across the UK, including homeless shelters, breakfast clubs for children and women’s refuge centres, helping to feed 62,200 people every day. These charities offer not only a meal but invaluable support to some of the poorest people in society. As demand for our services is increasing, your support for the
Neighbourhood Food Collection is vital and will enable us to provide our member charities with even more food.

As the trolley fills with donations, Tesco will pack the goods ready for delivery to one of FareShare’s 18 Regional Centres across the country. We’ll then distribute this food to the 1,296 charities we work with, including soup kitchens, drug rehabilitation centres and luncheon clubs for older people.

FareShare is a national charity fighting hunger and its underlying causes by redistributing surplus food from the food industry to over 1,290 local charities across the UK. These charities, including homeless shelters, women’s refuge centres, breakfast clubs for children and luncheon clubs for the elderly, offer not only a meal but invaluable support to some of the poorest people in society. They each save on average £13,000 a year, which can be reinvested into vital services to help get people back on their feet.

Last year the food redistributed by FareShare contributed towards more than 12 million meals and now helps to feed 62,200 vulnerable people every day.

The majority of the food FareShare redistributes is surplus and would otherwise go to waste. This is mainly fresh produce, such as fruit, vegetables and meat.

FareShare has 18 Regional Centres that provide the infrastructure for the distribution of this food. The charities supplied include homeless shelters, breakfast clubs for children and luncheon clubs for the elderly, offering not only a nutritional meal but invaluable services to help address the causes of why that individual is going hungry.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


We had an amazing time at the World Nettle Eating Championships at the weekend (incidentally where a new world record was set by someone who ate 80 feet of nettles in an hour.

As the McBaby couldn't understand what was going on, despite my explanation. "One last time, people EAT as many nettles as they can.....", so we had to let him run around where he happened upon a lucky dip stall run by the RNLI.

He won a packet of crayons and a tube that made a dolphin noise when you turned it upside down. Both were broken before the hour of nettle eating was up.....

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Sainsbury's looking for charity of the year

Sunday, 11 May 2014


Ring ring!
Who's there?
It's me! I'm the first person to put a mobile phone (AKA a housebrick) into the collection bucket for Heart Start, a local charity that provides training on how to save lives.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Friday, 25 April 2014

British Red Cross and CRUSE bereavement care

After eating the obligatory cake and losing at tombola - today in aid of Cruse bereavement care (where, I might add, we enjoyed THE FINEST cupcake I've ever had in my life!)- we headed to Rookwood House for a plant sale.

The queen of plant sales!

McBaby loved the beautiful grounds which gave him plenty of room to run and run.

Bumped into our friend Shelley!

So much running in fact, that he decided to have a lie down when he misunderstood what I said about a 'flowerbed'.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

How to more than double your charity funds....

If you're working with a charity and trying to raise money, then check out Findmeagrant which could match each pound you raise as well as helping with Gift Aid. That's what the Ark Cancer Centre Charity did....

The Ark Cancer Centre Charity has received a huge boost to their campaign to raise £5 million thanks to Greenham Common Trust which has agreed to match donations up to £500,000.
This means that each £1 raised will be matched with another £1 by the Trust. For example, a £50 donation will be worth £100. As an added bonus, the charity will receive an extra 25% of the donation (subject to eligibility) from the Gift Aid scheme.
To make a donation visit click ‘Applications’, type the application reference WB10841 into ‘Search’ and make your donation today. If you would like more information about the charity visit email or telephone 01256 360419

The Lambourn Open Day

Good Friday means one thing round here and it's that the doors of the local racehorse stables are thrown open so that the public can get a look behind the scenes. The £12 entrance fee allows you to enter any of the 30 stables and also gives entry to an afternoon of horsey entertainment where you literally rub shoulders with the stars of the racing community - we've talked to Nicky Henderson and Tony McCoy in previous years.

The money goes to various charities including the Injured Jockeys Fund. Unfortunately, we somehow bought dodgy raffle tickets - grrrr. Anyway, here's a pic of a horse.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Lent Day 25 and BHF

Lent Day 25 (miles behind!) Some fudge and a random wallet for a lovely journalist who patiently waited for my client to decide whether to go ahead with a story we put together!

Took another bag to the British Heart Foundation.

Also bought some biscuit cutters and the obligatory cake for the McBaby at the coffee morning which was in aid of Parkinson's today. As an added bonus, two older gentlemen who I hadn't seen for a while (and was frankly quite worried about) both turned up and we had a nice chat (one of them had a toy penguin for the McBaby which we've named after him). It's not easy being elderly in the cold weather.


Monday, 14 April 2014

Lent day 24 and British Heart Foundation

Another bag of good stuff to the British Heart Foundation - I can see some carpet in the bedroom!

The Lent challenge is way behind. Day 24, I sent some fudge to a lovely lady at PA who used one of my clients in her story about Mother's Day and how mums should ensure they get a bit of "me-time". Thank you!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Dementia Awareness Week - 18th to 24 May.

This year's theme is "Don't Bottle it up" and about how important it is to talk if you're worried that you or someone you know has dementia.

Monday, 31 March 2014

South Bucks Hospice Shop

I spent a couple of years living up the road from this charity shop a few years ago and always find it's easier to hand over my donations to a charity shop that's not part of a chain.

Today's good stuff included some shirts, a new top, some books and crucially, A FUZZY FELT GAME!!

Sport Relief

A week late! How could I have forgotten that my little one put his best foot forward and walked a mile for Sport Relief!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Lent days 20 to 23

Halfway there (woah, living on a prayer!).

20: I'm a few days behind, so Wednesday, day 20 (which was actually Friday) I gave someone a box of chocolates.

21: Then on Thursday, day 21 (which was actually half an hour later on the Friday), I gave someone this book:

The person I gave it to is well-placed to read it, understand it and put it in the hands of people that can benefit from it. It's an amazing book by the incredible Mary Craig (she wrote the best-seller Blessings about her work with Sue Ryder and how this helped her through bringing up one child with gargoylism and one with Down's Syndrome).
Voices from Silence is about a process in which people who have been perceived unable to speak owing to their disabilities are helped to communicate.

22: On Friday, day 22, which was actually Saturday, I noticed that one of our neighbours was moving out. Feeling bad that I had never got to know him, I gave him some peanut brittle and wished him well in his new house. I should really have done that 5 months ago.

23: Later on Saturday, day 23, I collected some of our random bits and bobs such as a new bottle of bubble bath, a beautiful painting of some flowers, a book on Green Living and some children's Thomas the Tank Engine bubble baths and handed them over at the Swap Shop in town. This means, hopefully, some unknown strangers will have picked them up.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

St Nicholas Church in Beedon and Lent days 18 and 19

I bought two cakes at the coffee morning which was all in aid of St Nicholas Church. One for me and one for McBaby. Well, you'd think so, but he scoffed both of them at the same time.

I'm also a few days behind with my Lent challenge as I've been hiding away from human contact. So, a bit late, but day 18 (Sunday) I gave someone a box of chocolates (they were Ferrero Rocher so I was gutted that I didn't have time to stack them into a pyramid) and then I bought a lady a coffee in the café as she had a nice face (day 19 - Monday).

Gosh that makes me sound mad!


Saturday, 22 March 2014

Willows Primary School and Lent days 15, 16, 17

Met up with three lovely ladies tonight so was able to handover lots of goodies for Thursday, Friday and Saturday;

Fudge for one lovely lady, who'd just come from Cornwall and said she couldn't find any! Peanut brittle for my other friend and then a babygrow and Thomas the Tank Engine goodies for friend number 3.

Meanwhile, the McBaby and I enjoyed cakes and a choir at the Thursday coffee morning when a local primary school held its fundraising event. I also picked up three DVDs - a more random selection you couldn't imagine -Friends, Twelve Monkeys and The French Lieutenant's Woman.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Lent days 12, 13, 14

I haven't had much human contact over the past two days, so I had to make the most of my three meetings today! All of the businesspeople I met received some delicious peanut brittle from Buttermilk Confections and all were even more thrilled to discover it hails from Port Isaac!

Fortunately one of the people I met is a professional declutterer so she was happy to head to the British Heart Foundation on my behalf as I've developed a bit of a phobia of handing over my donations! A win-win all round!


Saturday, 15 March 2014

Lent day 11

Bit of a cheat but I was at a brilliant revamping workshop today run by Sparkling Ginger in which we upcycled old clothes.

Lowly t-shirts became eye-catching scarves and with Jo's creative guidance, I even made a top I bought in Agra into a skirt, meaning I can wear it again!

Anyway, we invited the wonderful Smudge to come along to take part so she can do a write-up for Out and About magazine (free with your Newbury Weekly News!) so I gave her some fudge to say thank you and to be today's present recipient!

Scarf (was t-shirt two minutes previously!)

Friday, 14 March 2014

Lent (days 9 and 10)


A day late but I found a book about motherhood and found the perfect person to share it with! This one was for Lis Allen, motherhood guru!


The brilliant Emma Benson from Mrs B's Home Cooking is collecting bras for charity. I showed my "support" (hahaha!) by handing over one of my old ones!

Lent Day 7 and 8 (Tuesday and Wednesday)


With the weight of the world on my shoulders, I headed to a friend's for a cup of tea, so I took her some Birchbox make-up and some seeds in a box for her daughter. As well as cheering me up, she sent me a beautiful email later on the benefits of friendship and kindness. Now that's the kind of cup of tea I need more often!


Off to my business group where I've done some PR for one of my fellow members who is an expert in upcycling and revamping. Who better to benefit from some amazing African material that I thought I would make a dress out of? That's not going to happen! It is now!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Lent - day 4

Bit of a cheat I think as we went to see some friends. Firstly I wanted to give a box of bath goodies to one friend but realised McBaby (or me, possibly) had got banana all over the box, so I put them back in the car! Secondly, we gave some Viennetta, Arctic Roll, profiteroles and booze, but then that's something we would have done anyway. How about the copy of our local paper I took down for them - does that count?


Lent - Day 3

A day late, but today's gift was a colouring book and some crayons for a lovely little girl. I was stunned that she opened it up and started colouring without getting any on the walls, floor, carpets and furniture. Must just be my little one then!

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Lent - day2

Fudge was bound to make an appearance! I popped some fudge in the post a couple of days ago to someone to show my appreciation for their help.

Ash Wednesday

I don't mean to trivialise Lent but rather than give up chocolate or heaven forbid, alcohol, for 40 days and nights, I decided that I would give someone a present for each day of Lent. By that, I mean a different person every day, or else someone's going to get bored).

So I kicked off yesterday by forgetting to bring my gift when seeing the first person, but remembered for the fabulous Tracey and presented her with a copy of a book called "The joy of plumbing". While it is about plumbing, it's really about finding your dreams and setting up your own business. The author set up a women's-only plumbing business which can be franchised by women all over the UK. Fortunately Tracey loved it and also loved the fact that the author, Hattie Hasan called her women's-only plumbing business Stop Cocks Plumbing!

Sunday, 2 March 2014


Not quite sure how it's March already but it's just occurred to me that Lent begins on Wednesday. After pondering what to give up, I've decided to do something a bit different and give something away every day. Perhaps a book to a friend, a box of chocolates to a business acquaintance.

I'll post some of the better ones here!

What, if anything, are you giving up?

Friday, 21 February 2014

British Heart Foundation - Ramp up the red

I donated but didn't wear red - fortunately I'm behind the camera!


West Berkshire businesswomen raised more than £50 for the British Heart Foundation when they “ramped up the red” at the Athena Network’s Newbury meeting last week.

Members and guests donated and wore red in support of the BHF’s Heart Month, organised locally by Alison Rosier, the charity’s fundraising volunteer manager for Wiltshire and West Berkshire and charity member of the Athena Network team.

Alison said: “Thank you so much for your kind contribution; I can’t thank the Athena Network ladies enough for daring to go red to fight coronary heart disease and taking part in this year’s campaign. Every pound raised will make a difference to people’s lives.

“Heart and circulatory disease is still the UK’s single biggest killer, claiming one in three lives every year. That’s why their effort means so much - with the continued support from our community, we are able to go on saving more lives every year.”


Friday, 14 February 2014

Cancer Research Dryathlon - Happy Valentine's Day

MrM and I will be having a little tipple tonight, although neither of us is that keen to spend our cash on bits of red plastic and other heart shaped tat just because people say we should.

We like to show our love for each other every day, although, if I'd stayed in bed 5 minutes longer instead of getting up to rant about the neighbour slamming the door and waking me up, I would have had breakfast in bed thanks to my lovely hubby! Anyway, I digress! The reason I mentioned the tipple (champagne, free from Waitrose!) was that I haven't been drinking as I really need to improve my fitness and overall health.

The Cancer Research Dryathlon has proved to be an incredible deterrent to not opening the wine, owing to the kindness of strangers. An anonymous donor sponsored me, as did my sister! The thought of letting them and the charity down has made not drinking a breeze rather than a chore!

I've topped it up to make a donation of £25. Thanks to everyone for their support and thanks to the horrible weather for making me want to do nothing but stay at home in the warm! Cheers!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Ladybird Pre-school

No jumble today but lots of books, rather bizarrely some Christmas decorations which didn't seem to be attracting much interest, and of course cake! Today's charity was Ladybird Pre-School in Newbury. They didn't try to recruit the McBaby!

Friday, 31 January 2014

Macmillan Cancer Care

Eating cakes in aid of Macmillan Cancer Care at Thursday's coffee morning!

Monday, 13 January 2014

World Challenge

Some cute things from the coffee morning which was organised at the last minute to raise money for two youngsters to head off to Morocco for a mountain trek.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Cancer Research UK Dryathlon

Six days and one hangover in, I'm off the booze again. I'll make the six days up in February! I don't expect anyone to donate as I'll make a donation based on the money I hope to save, however, if you happen to see me in the next little while, I'd appreciate it if you don't wax lyrical about the refreshing nature of that gin and tonic you're holding!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Hungerford Round Table

Happy New Year! Hope you had a lovely Christmas and I wish you every success for 2014! Today's charity was the Hungerford Round Table, members of whom cheerfully stood in the cold outside the town hall, collecting money while shredding Christmas trees. We gave them a small donation in return for recycling our Christmas tree and mulching it before our eyes.

Then the real work of vacuuming up the needles at our house began; a process which ruined TWO hoovers.

A couple of days ago, we also donated to the Church of St Phillip and St James in the small town of Tow Law, Co Durham, after attending the funeral of a much-loved family friend who died at the age of 97, just before Christmas. My parents who were student nurses way back when, met Nancy and her husband as they ran the nurses home; when I came along, the couple looked after me when my parents were at work.

Surprisingly, the slim and beautiful Nancy was one of the first people to sign up for Rosemary Conley's dieting class, and apparently, also changed the name of the nurses' "canteen" to the more prestigious "cafeteria". Always a hard worker, she even helped out, at the age of 10, at a soup kitchen during the General Strike. Considering her age and the fact that many of her friends predeceased her, there was a great turn out at the funeral including the vicar who kindly gave me lots of info on the Reverend Thomas Henry Espinell Compton Espin when I asked why the formerly named Station Road had been renamed Espin Place. The reverend was a prominent astronomer and unbelievably also an expert on x-rays. As well as having a street in Tow Law named after him, he also has a part of the moon with his name.

If you're so inclined, this piece in the Northern Echo is well worth a read.